KARACHI: “Ministries and departments responsible for the protection of human and women’s rights must be provided adequate human resources,” said Syeda Shehla Raza, Sindh Minister for Women Development.

She was speaking at the launch of the Sindh Human Rights Commission’s second three-year strategic plan at a local hotel on Thursday.

The plan prepared by the SHRC with technical assistance from the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA) looks to strengthen and redress mechanisms, spread awareness among vulnerable populations about protection mechanisms, review and identify legislations and monitor implementation of the existing laws.

While appreciating SHRC’s progress, Ms Raza said that Sindh was the only province to have two rights commissions working under the dynamic leadership of two women – retired Justice Majida Rizvi, heads the SHRC, and Nuzhat Shireen, who heads the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women.

Minister says 30 complaint cells needed to cover HR violations in all districts

“Both are successfully managing the uphill task of promotion and protection of women and human rights in the province,” she said.

“But, just having these commissions is not enough. We need 30 complaint cells to cover all the districts with more people to work there as the work of the commissions is to identify gaps and spread awareness,” she said, adding that there is a need for extra intervention in the cases where minor girls are involved.

“Here we can see that a girl is underage, but the courts don’t see it. When there are faults made at the FIR stage, then the case is flawed too,” she pointed out.

Bringing up her personal tragedy, when she lost both her children in an accident, she said that the then judge hearing the case never even called her for her statement. “Was I not human? Did I not have any rights?” she argued.

Earlier, in her welcome address, the SHRC chairperson Justice Majida Rizvi described the successes and future plans of the commission. She said that the SHRC had been established as part of Pakistan’s compliance with the Paris Principles, which required greater autonomy of national human rights institutions. She also said that the recent amendment to the Sindh Protection of Human Rights Act, 2011, was in conflict with the Act.

“If not reversed, it will undermine the independent functioning of the commission,” she said.

While providing some background about the SHRC, she said that it was established under the Sindh Protection of Human Rights Act, 2011, for the promotion and protection of human rights in Sindh. While presenting SHRC’s progress under its previous strategic plan, she also highlighted the commission’s successes in getting laws reviewed, receiving and addressing complaints and training police and other stakeholders responsible for providing relief and protection to victims of human rights abuses.

SHRC spokesperson Adnan Ali Khaskheli highlighted key achievements by the commission in the last three years as per the objectives set under the first strategic plan.

Rashid Chaudhry, a TDEA representative, presented the salient features of the new three-year plan.

Also speaking on this occasion, Barrister Pir Mujibul Haq, Chairman of Sindh Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights, Law and Parliamentary Affairs, assured the participants that the Sindh government stood for autonomous commissions. He said the recent amendments to the law undermining the spirit of independence of the commission would be reviewed shortly.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2023

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